Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar (KRQ), one of Pakistan’s renowned screenwriters and Misogynist Supreme, begs no introduction. But I’ll go ahead and give him one anyway.
With a handful of projects to his name, KRQ recently grabbed the spotlight after a shockingly sexist interview where he proudly mansplained traits of a “good” woman, how equality of the sexes would finally make sense to him only if women gang-raped men and basically engaged in all sorts of lewd conduct like men, how men are virtually blameless for all their ills because they’re men, and everything and anything they do wrong is essentially a woman’s fault, how women don’t know what rights they want, and — to add a cherry on top of this rotten sundae — how he is the biggest feminist in the country.
Following this dish of an interview, KRQ was invited to as many talk shows as he would entertain, and was shown spreading his pearls of wisdom, being lauded by male hosts and audiences whilst the female ones sat like mindless bots. Despite a social media uproar, this circus went on for months until one man from Samaa TV’s News Beat, host Barrister Ehtesham Amir-ud-din, had the sense to wedge KRQ against an actual feminist and human rights activist, Tahira Abdullah. She not only schooled her viewers on what feminism was, what women were and could do, but she also shut down the nonsensical ramblings of the infamous KRQ on that show.
And with that, the world saw the power of one educated, progressive woman! A day later, however, there was news of a women’s educational institute cancelling an interactive session with KRQ after severe criticism from the student body.
To me, a women’s college cancelling an interactive session with a proud misogynist was a missed opportunity to beat down misogyny with an educated and informed discussion on feminism and women’s rights conducted by educated and informed women. tweet
“We can’t let someone with such views conduct sessions,” shared a source with the media.
Besides the fact that I don’t believe in banning or shutting out any thought simply because it displeases us, I was personally crushed by the institute’s decision. I expected more women schooling ill-informed men (and women) on feminism and rights of women as afforded by the very Constitution of the country they claim to love.
To me, a women’s college cancelling an interactive session with a proud misogynist was a missed opportunity to beat down misogyny with an educated and informed discussion on feminism and women’s rights conducted by educated and informed women.
It was a missed opportunity to have women in the spotlight in a country where it’s a rare occurrence. To give you a screenshot of what I mean, here are a few examples:
- In November 2019, the Arts Council of Pakistan was forced to backtrack after it was revealed that a discussion on feminism it meant to host was to have an all-male panel.
- The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a powerful, 54-year-old religious body that advises the government on the compatibility of Pakistani laws with Islam, has 20 members. Out of these 20 seats, 19 are always occupied by male members with only one female representative. It wasn’t until March 2018 that the council announced its likelihood to include two female members instead of just the one. Why does it matter? Because this male-dominated council has declared laws that criminalized violence against women to be un-Islamic, has ruled that DNA cannot be used as primary evidence in rape cases, and it supported a law that required women alleging rape to get four male witnesses to testify in court before a case is heard. As long as the men are in charge of interpreting religion for women, we will have injustice towards women in the name of religion.
- On the national front, the percentage of Pakistan’s women parliamentarians has swayed between 22% in 2009 to 20% in 2018, including a 17% reserved quota. Pakistan does not conform to the universal standard of Critical Mass Theory that necessitates having at least 33% of the total parliamentary seats occupied by women. According to World Bank, Pakistan’s total female population was reported at 48.54% in 2018. Half of the country only has 20% representation in Parliament, the country’s highest legislative body.
How can we expect anyone to understand what and why feminism is given this scenario? How can we expect women-friendly laws when we aren’t even represented?
We don’t need to shut down discourse to the shadows. We need to talk back. This isn’t the time for us to shy away from any argument downplaying or demonizing feminism. It is time for us to confront it and take misogyny by the horns! tweet
And then, if we are to shut down talks with misogynists, to scare away from misogynist and patriarchal mindsets simply because they are dominant by virtue of their loud voices and centuries of anti-women traditions by their side, we as women doom our children to the same mess that we grew up in. We doom our children to the same subjugation and chokehold that we maybe want to fight, but are too afraid to.
We need more Tahira Abdullahs at the forefront, on panels, in the media — asking questions, making refined and educated arguments, and winning back our rightful place in a civilized society.
We don’t need to shut down discourse and relegate it the shadows. We need to talk back. This isn’t the time for us to shy away from any argument downplaying or demonizing feminism. It is time for us to confront it and take misogyny by the horns!